nikkor 85mm f1.4 vs. 105mm f2.8 VR

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by commtrd, May 23, 2008.

  1. I have been reading some incredible reviews of the 85mm f1.4 and I have the tell-
    tale symptoms of a new lens fixing to happen...however I just got a new 105mm
    f2.8 macro with VR and magnification to 1:1 because I have been getting more into
    deep close-up shots and I really wanted a lens to do this vs. using my 18-200 at
    200mm to try to do macro work with it. Well the 18-200 is a pretty good lens but I
    started feeling like maybe it wasn't the best lens for the direction my photography
    is going. Plus I am really starting to get into fast primes...the 18-200 is a fair lens
    for walk-about and general work it does pretty well I think. But it definitely is not a

    So the question is: How would the 85mm f1.4 compare to the 105mm f2.8 as far
    as portraiture etc.? I also have a 50mm 1.8 prime and that is a sweet little lens
    also. I very much appreciate the use of natural lighting whenever possible vs. the
    use of a flash and as such a fast prime just takes my breath away looking at the
    resultant work. The 85 / f1.4 is actually more expensive than the 105 was. I think
    my wife may have a fit if I get another lens so soon! Anyway, since experiencing
    good fast glass, it is like an addiction and I just want faster and faster primes.

    I want to get into weddings, quinceaneras, taking pictures of kids, etc. and this
    lens would fit between the 50 and the 105 nicely. Plus the reviews I have read have
    reflected reverence for this lens the likes of which are rarely encountered! I am
    almost thinking of selling the 18-200 and getting the 85 instead. Later maybe I
    could get the 70-200 or 70-300 for longer-range work like surf photography and
    wildlife etc. Or just keep the 18-200 and get the 85mm prime...

    Does anyone here own both the 85 / 1.4 AND the 105 / 2.8 macro with VR? I
    would really like to hear from someone about a comparison and if the 85 would be
    that different from the 105 because it is fairly pricey...well I already think it will
    probably get done someday because I like fast glass but nice to have some input
    on this. The reviews I have read are just gushing about how awesome this lens
  2. I have the 85mm and it's the first lens I'm going to dump. Keep in mind it is an older design, has older pre-digital coatings. I get too much CA from it. I think the macro capability and VR of the 105mm makes that one a clear winner. It's a modern lens with modern coatings for one thing.

    Kent in SD
  3. The new Nikkor 105/2.8 VR Micro was reviewed by Bjorn Rorslett ( and found wanting. I have the older, non-VR version, which I find has more CA than my 70-200/2.8. Other than their ability to focus down to 1:1, the 105 Micro lenses are a minor disappointment.

    By all accounts, the 85/1.4 is an excellent portrait lens with good bokeh. It would be on the long side for my taste with a cropping DSLR. While it is tempting to purchase "great" lenses, it is wise to consider how you will use them apart from bragging rights.

    The 70-200/2.8 VR is widely praised by all, for use with cropping DSLRs at any rate. Its edge sharpness is not what it should be with a full-framed camera. I use mine for about 25% of my work (concerts and events). It would be a great asset to your surfing photography, along with a 1.4x or 1.7x tele-converter when needed.
  4. Thanx for 105 does have some focussing problems, particularly trying to use auto-focus in macro range which I know better than to do that but sometimes I get a little lazy or in a hurry and do it anyway. I wanted a lens with some magnification and generally I am pleased with this lens. I thought about the Tamron 90mm for my macro lens but decided on the nikkor instead because of the VR since I knew I wanted to use it for more than just macro work. It may be that the 70-200 would actually be a better lens for what I am doing...I will keep researching. Appreciate the help.

    I am still kind of intrigued about that 85 / 1.4 though...
  5. Lens lust. Be careful. I can`t cure it and it has become chronic after 50 years.

    I have purchased an embarasing large number of Nikkors in the year I have had my D200. Maybe I am in remission for a while.

    The good news is they only cost about the same as Leica lens shades so the wife has not complained much.
  6. I have had both of these lenses in the film versions. I liked both of them, and I am very critical of equipment, especially Nikon lenses which sometimes seem as if they were designed with cost as the primary factor. Leica makes the best lens they can and charges what they have to. Nikon appears to offer variable quality. Their more expensive lenses are very good, the cheaper ones pretty poor. It might be best to pick the focal length you prefer. The 105 is good for headshots, the 85 for portraits with some of the torso in them. It is also very nice to have a good macro. It opens up possibilities that you might not have. So it seems that it would be desirable to have both of them.
  7. 85 mm 1.4 really IS to be intrigued; I think you still need to do a better job in convincing yourself to buy it. The difference for me is very subjective: 85 is more fun to use (I have the AiS version) while the results look (are?) nicer, softer, "more 3D". To help you even more :
    I expect/hope (pure guess) that Nikon will upgrade to 85 mm 1.4 AFS with nanocoating (without DC) ...soon.
  8. Hi, I had both and did some fairly rigorous testing of both. My heart said keep the 85mm but results showed the 105 to be equal or better in terms of quality. I sold the 85mm lens and havent regretted it except for pangs of NAS rather than need. If you need f1.4 or f2 for what you want to achieve with piccies then nothing the 105 can do gets close to fulfilling that. F1.4 is sharp but soft contrast on cropped sensor and has limited scope IMO. Also a cropped sensor makes it very hard to focus at f1.4 relying on the vagaries of the AF to get the plane of focus where you need it. My summary would be that the 85mm F1.4 should be viewed as a specialist lense which you buy to fulfil specific picture taking needs (a bit like the leica F1 noctilux) whereas the 105 can fulfil a wider brief almost becoming general purpose.

  9. The 105 is of limited value on a small sensor camera for close work, a bit long for portraits. It is a nice sharp lens and one of the better Nikkors. I find the 60 better. 85 can be a bit long for portraits on DX but it is workable.

    On FX or film, I prefer the 105. However if you like shots with narrow debth of field, the 85 is better suited. But you still can achieve very blury backgrounds with 105.
  10. Points well taken. I think for now what I will do is stick with what I have and use 'em exhaustively and think about what I need vs. want. The 50mm makes some very good photos and at 1.5x factor on my D300 is at 75mm; not quite as fast as the f1.4. The 105 is an awesome lens as well because I really do enjoy macro work; the issue with the AF hunting is kind of a bummer but it does not do it much when not in macro range either so it is a keeper for me. When shooting macro just manually focus and it's OK...Plus the bokeh is really nice with that lens as well. It would really be interesting to see if Nikon does an upgrade (or newer) version of the 85 / 1.4 in the near future.
  11. Keith,

    I own both lenses, and I used to own 18-200 but found that even as a walk around lens, my sample was too soft for my needs and I sold it. I shoot fine art, some portraits and weddings. The 85 is a fantastic lens in terms of image quality. I had the 1.8 and the extra money for the 1.4 was worth it. It doesn't focus well on a D300 in low light however so for weddings, I don't use it much. The 105 is ok but you can only get 1.4 DOF with a 1.4 lens.

    NAS has no doubt threatened countless marriages. And as if I didn't have enough trouble, I just bought an M8, so don't listen to anything I say unless you like sleeping on the couch.

  12. NAS? I hate it when the obvious is illusive to me!
  13. Nikon Acquisition Syndrome i believe.

    I had it bad (for lenses) until recently. My lens lineup is pretty complete now from
    10.5mm to 200mm. Out of the 7 pro lenses i have, the 85 1.4D might be my
    favorite. Keith, If you can afford it, just get it over with...those reviews you read were
    not lying.

    There is a learning curve with the lens. Many find that it's strength is between f/2
    and f/2.8 for that amazing bokeh and the right amount of focus on the subject.

    Good luck.

    p.s. the only thing i have NAS for now is the imminent D3X.
  14. I own both. I had owned both the 85/1.8 AFD and the 85/1.4 AFD along with the older 105/4 AIS when they all got stolen (along with most of my gear).

    My insurance was pretty good, and the 'replacement value' clause led me to buy a bunch of gear all at once. I bought both the 85/1.4 AFD and the new 105 VR.

    The 85/1.4 is a workhorse for me. I loved the f/l on film, and it is a bit of an odd fit on DX. Still, very useful to me for available light candids and indoor sports / PJ work.

    When I got the 105 VR (along with all the goodies from the insurance settlement), it was one of the bits that I had no experience with and was frankly pretty impressive. The way it can crank out sharp images in the 1:3 - 1:4 regime at *unbelievable* shutter speeds like 1/30th handheld is just astonishing!

    I figured I'd try the 105 VR alongside the 85/1.4 and the 135/2.0 DC at my next low light PJ event. I do volunteer work shooting for Special Olympics, and I took all three lenses to a bowling alley. The fast 85 and 135 have been very useful for me in the past. Slipping the 105 VR into the mix was interesting. The VR of course helps cancel out the 'hand hold' speed factor, but as you might expect, it did nothing for subject motion. My judgement: the 105 VR is a lovely lens, but it won't replace the 85/1.4 or 135/2.0 in my bag for low light work.

    Somebody else on this forum suggested the 105 VR 'sort of' replaces the 70-200 VR for the 'grab and go' do everything bag when you don't want to carry the big beast. I like that analogy. It's a nice complement to the 17-55 when you don't want to carry a really heavy bag and don't need the reach.
  15. Todd,

    Thanks this was exactly the feedback I was hoping to get. This is just what I suspected would be the case...for shooting in available light the fast primes supplement existing lenses to cover the range of light conditions and subjects composing for.

    Now I need to figure a stealth way to get the 85 / 1.4 and keep the boss happy [;-)
  16. I`m also owner of both lenses. I agree 100% with Todd.

    I must say that I`m not a long lens user, but I like to have an all-terrain tele lens that I like to use mostly for head shots and details. Althought the 105VR is still a big&heavy lens, it is pretty more portable than the 70-200. I have tons of lenses, mostly primes, but the only ones I`m -really- using are the 17-55 (sometimes I take the 24-70 instead of this), 24/2.8 and now the 105VR. Althought the 85/1.4 could be a good portrait lens on a DX camera, for whatever the reason I almost never use it. Too many lenses to use, though.

    I highly dislike to use f1.4 apertures just to have a shot in very low light conditions. In my experience, this photos are usually inusables or too bad to my taste. By far, I prefer to use flash if there isn`t enough light to shot at least at f2.8. I like to use wide apertures only for creative purposes. It`s pretty common to me to shot f2.8 with flash even in full daylight. The 105VR have a very narrow DoF and a noticeable good bokeh, another reason to left the superexpensive 85/1.4 at home.

    I`d prefer to save money to buy new AFS lenses. AFD ones are things of the past. Think on a new version of the 70-200, N coatings, f2.8 or f4...

    " 105 does have some focussing problems, particularly trying to use auto-focus in macro range... "

    I`d not call this a problem but a AF macro lens focus issue. IMHO this lens focus pretty good, astoundingly good, I`d say. Don`t know if you have a bad sample, mine is able to focus at the whole distance range easily... always there is enough light to work. Think that at 1:1 this lens is f4.8, more light is needed to work than with a f2.8 lens. You must add that the unfocused image blur could be highly pronounced at closer distances (where "normal" 105`s are simply out of the focusing range), indeed a very difficult task for an AF system. Also, at closer distances, a very subtle camera movement could stop the AF capture. Simply add light, be firm or slightly move the focus point to let the AF catch something to focus.
  17. Jose,

    Agree 100% on capabilities of 105 VR macro. The lens amazes me more each time I use it. Today I was able to catch a bumblebee hovering next to a wall and captured the image with the bug flying and me hand-holding the camera...picture was amazingly sharp and clear plus I used the autofocus! I will post a picture if I can figure out how to size it correctly.

    Some may have issues with this lens, but really it is my favorite lens in my bag at this time. I do have one important question though: Will these lenses I have purchased transition well to service on a FX format sensor (D3x) and work OK? It was always my intention to get lenses that would be usable for many years and if eventually cameras migrate to FX format sensors, I would like my lenses to be usable with new camera bodies. Hopefully the D300 DX sensor will be supported for many years...probably to be my backup camera when I go to a D3 someday. That will not happen any time soon though.

    This is one of the main reasons I think I will wait a while to saee if Nikon comes out with a new 85 / 1.4 AFS and new coatings before getting one. In the meantime, I think my 105 will stand in OK for the portraiture I want to do with the 85 and I still have the 50mm also...
  18. I loved shooting with the 85mm f1.4 on film bodies. A super lens to shoot in available light
    at concerts. But I found the DX crop took too much from this lens. Better to use a 50mm
    f1.2 in that case.
  19. Don't compare the Nikon 85mm f1.4 vs. 105mm f2.8 VR, compare them with the ZEISS 85/1.4 and 100/2 Macro with Nikon mount, for high demand photography!

  20. Here I like the 85mm F1.4 AIS alot; I got a 2nd one after the 1st went under water in Katrina. Another fast lens is the 105mm F1.8 Nikkor too.
  21. I didn't like the slow, big and heavy Micro-Nikkor 105/2.8 VR. My favourite tele lens even with a crop dslr is the AF-Nikkor 85/1.4. I am convinced by its quality but I must confess the manual focus Zeiss ZF 85/1.4 is visibly better on my D200/300. I had the chance to borrow this lens from Zeiss for several weeks so I could compare both 85 mm lenses. But.... focus this lens properly it is absolutely necessary to change the original focusing screen. I use a focussing screen by katzeyeoptics and it works fine. Without this screen it's nearly impossible to focus a 85 mm at f. 1.4, 2 ord 2.8 right on the spot.
  22. Sorry to rejuvenate this thread but through a stroke of luck I'm faced with the exact same dilemma, with one minor difference: in my case the 105mm is NOT a "VR", which is how I like a macro.

    My comparison:

    (1) 105mm f/2.8 No-VR (about $600 used)
    (2) 85mm f/1.4 (about $900 used)
    (3) Potentially: 70-200mm ($1200 used)

    So price wise I'm tilting towards 105mm. Flickr photos for all of these lenses are amazing. If my 105mm can be a lighter carryaround for 70-200mm then it makes sense.

    I'd be happy with the non-VR version of 105mm as my testing in the store of the latest VR-enabled 105mm was very disappointing: there was a lot of "focus breathing" (the lens dancing around before it found something to lock on) which is useless as by the time it gets its target in real world scenario, the object would have moved. Is this not the experience of owners?

    Appreciate any pointers or experience, including OP. Thanks!

Share This Page